The end of the 2016 MLS season is upon us, as Toronto FC host the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final tonight (5 pm PT, FOX, UniMás). It’s the culmination of nine months of competitive games, and attention will literally turn to the 2017 season beginning tomorrow. But tonight, it’s the championship game.
The Rootability Index has been a steadfast companion throughout the playoffs this season, helping the neutrals out there determine who they should be rooting for. And all things considered, the Index’s picks have been the winners more often than not. I’ve noted that the Rootability Index is not a prediction for games, but maybe I’m way wrong on that.
Anyway, we fed the numbers through the Index one final time this season, and while the needle swayed violently to each side for what seemed like an eternity, a favored side emerged.
Both teams have big fanbases that other teams’ fanbases love to hate. But both teams are also quite likable, have good mixes of players on their team including stars who can change the outcome of a match, and generally play entertaining soccer. There’s a lot to like on each side.
But while the Sounders have reached a new height after eight years of being consistently good, if not always a top contender, the Rootability Index starts to tip towards Toronto FC.
In May 2012, one of TFC’s Designated Players, Dutch forward Danny Koevermans, was nearly reduced to tears as he was being interviewed, as he declared his club “the worst team in the world right now.” At the time, Toronto was 0-9 to start the MLS season, yet another horrific start to a season to derail the campaign by June.
It was one of the most memorable quotes in MLS history, but a memory that most TFC fans concurred with and don’t want to revisit.
Yet that very quote gives just a glimpse of the depths Toronto FC was in just five seasons ago. TFC was a total joke, a team that didn’t make the playoffs at all until their ninth season in the league, in a league where you have to be truly terrible to miss the postseason again and again.
To see Toronto get off to such an eager start in MLS in 2007, a large fanbase that helped energize MLS before Seattle jumped aboard two years later, only to see years of futility knock any enthusiasm out of that same group, it’s heartening to see the club finally turn things around and sit on the brink of winning MLS Cup.
So if Seattle won tonight, it would be a nice story. But if Toronto won tonight, it would be reward for all those fans who stuck with the team during the many, many lean years, only to come out on the other side with a league title. The neutral’s choice is easy. Come on, you Reds!
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